3 Stars / Contemporary / Review / Romantic Suspense

Review: Storm of Ambition by Lily Black

Still reeling from her broken engagement with Aaron Farsee, Grace Meredes is content to live quietly and hide from the paparazzi. She’s abruptly yanked back into her father’s world when she receives a text from a blackmailer. Her family could be ruined unless she meets the blackmailer in Willowdale. The media reported that Grace dumped her fiancé because she didn’t want to deal with his war wounds and PTSD, so no one will believe that he was the one who cancelled the wedding. Unwilling to expose her private life again, Grace contrives a cover story for her visit to Willowdale, along with a fake name, to keep her dad’s nosy senatorial staff at bay.

When Aaron sees Grace standing at the counter of his auto shop, he dreads the drama that will surely follow. She claims she’s in town to help with the winter festival, but he has trouble believing her. Despite his skepticism he agrees to help her, since the proceeds benefit the veterans hospital. But he is determined not to do anything that might help her father.

When someone leaves a threatening message along with a knife in Grace’s cabin, Aaron’s protective instincts kick in. But he can’t save her from a danger she won’t admit is real. The double threat of the blackmailer and her father’s buried secrets soon leave Grace without anyone to trust but the man who broke her heart.

Title:Storm of Ambition
Author:Lily Black
Series:Willowdale (Book 2)
Romantic Suspense
Trope(s):Second Chance Romance
Point of View:
Location:Willowdale, US
Release Date:7th January, 2020
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Enjoyable but…

When I first started this book, I actually had to go back just to make sure I wasn’t reading the second part of a dreaded duet. She’s in love with him – he’s in love with her and they’re engaged. That’s the end, right? Wrong! This is a complete standalone (although the second in the Willowdale series) and things are about to go wrong for our couple before they (hopefully) go right. Excellent! Can’t have the characters having it too easy, after all!

We’re into the story and I’m trying to put things together in my head with the blackmailer, Grace’s reasoning for coming to find Aaron, for hiding out. My head started to hurt as I tried to understand what was going on. Then I decided that I didn’t really need to know what was going on to enjoy the book, so I just didn’t think too hard about the blackmailer’s motives – just content in the fact that Grace was being blackmailed. So that was all fine.

That was, however, a little bit of a theme with this book. Lots and lots of detail. I can’t fault the author for trying to really build the world of the town Willowdale and all the colourful characters that lived there. But with the blackmailer, Grace and Aaron’s past, the cast of characters, Grace’s dreams of being a dancer, Aaron’s PTSD and injury and the winter festival… it was a lot.

I was still enjoying myself. The writing carried me forward, I was rooting for our characters to get together again – I do love a second-chance love story – and in terms of the the blackmail plot, see above. And then, at 26%, it all came to a screeching halt when a guy from Grace’s past turns up. Oh, that’s right, he just happens to be the man that had “persuaded” her to cheat on Aaron when she and Aaron were a couple. Yuck. Yuck, yuck yuck. What kind of heroine is this?  Why do I want her to get her happily ever after? At that point, I was so uninterested in continuing the book AND my face was tripping me whenever I thought about it.

When I finally started the next chapter we get a caveat. “It’s okay – they weren’t exclusive at that point and Aaron had slept around a bit, too.” Okay then. So it was a cheap plot trick that nearly backfired! But still, I want my characters to love each other so much that they don’t even look at another person. Or at the very least, have some loyalty and integrity. Sadly, this was indicative of Grace and Aaron’s relationship as a whole. They didn’t have the spark that I wanted them to have – and I felt that both of them, but especially Aaron’s, reasoning for not being with the other, were flimsy and easily surmountable if you really wanted to be with someone. Fear not, though – this is still a happily ever after. Phew!

“[Lily] Black has a talent for building detailed worlds and characters that really come to life.”

This is a romantic suspense story so we obviously have the blackmailer and the ‘suspense’ element of our story along with the romance. It worked because it was a little convoluted, and there was a wide range of characters who could be the blackmailer – so it’s a while before you finally get ‘the clue’ that makes you realise who it is. But kudos to Ms Black for then turning things so I doubted myself! There’s suspense, true, but there’s not a lot of peril or fear. I wasn’t scared or anxious and I’m the easiest person in the world to scare!

There were a few niggles that irritated me throughout the book. “Off of” – please just don’t! “Till” instead of “until” or “ ’til” is a personal irritant of mine. But the worst is continuity errors – the most glaring of which was that Grace’s father gave her the nickname “kitten” which she hated. This ended up being slightly pertinent point in the story, yet the next thing we know, the nickname is “Princess”. Just annoying.

There was a lot of instances of characters doing shift changes in relation to how they felt about other characters. I suppose it’s possible, but it didn’t help with how I felt about how these characters came across. For example, before Grace came to town, Aaron had gone on a few dates with/was seeing someone. At the end of the book he’s suddenly saying he always knew she was selfish, childish, and they didn’t have much in common. Similarly, Grace was suspicious of a character being her blackmailer right up to the end. Then, she’s suddenly saying he’s become like a father to her. Dizzying 180s!

For those interested, I don’t recall much (if any) swearing/ foul language, and the sex was limited to a one-liner description.

I had a lot to say about this book and feel I can really only award it 3 stars. However, I read it to the end and genuinely wanted to know what was going to happen – both with the blackmailer and with Grace and Aaron. The writing was engaging and, as I mentioned previously, Ms Black has a talent for building detailed worlds and characters that really come to life. I enjoyed my time living in the world of this book and wouldn’t be averse to reaching for another Lily Black romantic suspense novel again in the future.

Lily Black believes in true love, but she is also quite certain that going after it is the scariest thing we’ll ever do. She explores this dynamic in her romantic suspense novels, which are set in the small imaginary town of Willowdale, where people dream big, love deeply, and kick butt if necessary.

Lily has a black belt in Chung Do Kwan Tai Kwon Do, and she has also trained in everything from judo to broadswords. She lives in North Carolina, where she tries to divide her free time between the mountains and the sea. She shares her home with a very patient and loving husband and their teenage daughter.

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